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Pruning Thats and Hads and Finding the Value of True Friends

I had decided that I would go through my manuscript and that I would take out excess ‘thats’. Can there be excess thats? I decided that that was the case.

What should be the criteria in taking out ‘thats’? I decided that that criteria should be if it reads funny or not. But when you use the ‘find’ function of Word to uncover all the thats, you discover that that task is not so easy. There are over 2000 of them! Sometimes they look funny. Sometimes they don’t.

Moreover, you find the anchor of your own judgment doesn’t hold as fast as you thought that it would. Sometimes a that looks funny, but after 200 thats, your head begins to hurt and you begin passing thats that you suspect were used in the very same way as thats that you have already sent to the that bin. But that is just a suspicion. The thats you have sent to the that bin are no longer there—you handled that problem, so that that comparison is impossible to make!

Moreover, your friends chime in with help that you suspect is not helpful. Don’t be so hasty, they say. Why, what about this sentence? "I think that that 'that' that that student wrote on the chalkboard was wrong." Nothing wrong with that, is there? Don’t be such a word-nazi.

Well, maybe I was rash and exclusionary in taking out some thats. That is my problem, but I also feel that that problem will not be solved easily since the pruned thats are gone.

Forget the thats! You can’t solve it—move on to another word. Such as had. But I began to discover the true worth of friends when one of them pointed to how had had had had had had had had had had had would work in a sentence. “No way!” I said, but I was wrong. She found it in Wikipedia and if something is in Wikipedia you know it is correct!

The sentence refers to two students, James and John, who are required by an English test to describe a man who had suffered from a cold in the past. John writes "The man had a cold", which the teacher marks incorrect, while James writes the correct "The man had had a cold". Since James's answer was right, it had had a better effect on the teacher.

“The sentence is easier to understand with added punctuation and emphasis: James, while John had had “had”, had had “had had”; “had had” had had a better effect of the teacher

I had just about decided to replace all 100,000 words of my manuscript with “hads” and be done with it, when someone else said, “Look, just get Grammarly, will you?” I had heard of it before, had had that app recommended to me, had that I only listened. It integrates quickly into Word and promptly begins a search and destroy mission for thats, hads, and God knows what else. You make a few corrections before you notice that it is not only picking on your words, but it is picking on the words of those you have quoted. It is even picking on words published, even if those published words are in the Bible!

You muddle through as best you can, for it does save a lot of time, after you note that it flags areas of possible concern—it doesn’t pretend to say they are all wrong. It just wants you to look them over, like I was already doing with thats and hads to see if they look funny.

The next day I launch Word once more and a message appears: “Word detected an issue with ‘Grammarly.’ It caused Word to start slowly.”

Yeah, well it didn’t cause Word to freeze up, did it? something which happens at the drop of a pin, and once it does there is no recourse but a hard reboot, and it takes 5 minutes to get back to where you were! I have tried to troubleshoot that fine problem for the longest time, to no success. Holding my breath, optimism, and watching my language when those strategies fail,  is what I have so far found be the best strategy. But that is a whole different post.

I see there are some proposed fixes to the Grammarly problems that has caused Word to open slowly. I ponder my options.

A. Eliminate Grammarly

B. Eliminate Word

C. Eliminate your laptop

D. Eliminate your pretentious manuscript. What made you think anyone was going to read it anyway?

Oh, and I actually did find a useful tool for ‘thats’. Check it here, if that is an issue for you.

 

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